4 Starting Points to Help Set Priorities


It is the priority, intention and discipline of all living things to push through adversity and accomplish its purpose.

— Journey On Coaching

“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” Leo Babauta

What matters to you in the New Year?

What stands out as the most important thing to accomplish, focus on or plan for?

I’m not one for resolutions. For me, resolutions come after I’ve experienced something and have learned a great lesson from that experience. I resolve myself to be more streamlined toward a better outcome should this particular situation rear up again. My resolution shows up in acknowledging my mistakes or missteps, in resolving myself to the new reality of what worked and didn’t work and most of all I resolve myself to the changed me that I have become because of those experiences or lessons.

For me, when the New Year comes around I like to set priorities, intentions and disciplines. I recently attended a sermon being given by a very wise pastor, someone I have become a fan of.  He pointed out that although it may sound counterproductive in today’s world to put ourselves into a box or to set limits upon ourselves, that is exactly what we should consider doing. I know this isn’t what you truly want to hear but stay with me because this just might reach deep inside of you and inspire you.

As I was researching and soul searching to write this post a book appeared to me through reading another person’s blog post. I resonated so deeply with just the title of the book that I had to get a copy for myself. The book is called hand wash cold, care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. On page 122 of this very down to earth book came the point to my post for you. It combines thoughts from the incredible sermon and this incredible book:

Each of us is given one life as a great gift. The image that came to my mind as I was listening to this sermon was one of a garden and then these were the words I read, “Life is a garden, and when you do not yet see that your life is a garden you may not see your life clearly at all. You are the garden and the gardener, you reap what you sow.”

We each have whatever limits our mind sets for us as to how to manage this great gift of life however, it is up to each of us to tend to, develop and take deep care of the piece that was doled out to us within this great gift of life. “You may think to yourself that your portion of this garden is too much work to tend to; then take it step by step. You may think to yourself that you might make a mistake; then know that gardens are forgiving and will grow back.” You may think to yourself that it is too much discipline to carry; than know that if not this discipline there are many more gardens to tend.

“You make everything true by bringing it to life, so be careful what you bring. Anger kills, bitterness poisons, greed spoils, fear stunts, and inattention withers.” By neglecting our garden, by taking on more than the land can hold or yield, by not putting your full intention and discipline and priority to this gift of your garden, you can’t possibly do great things in your garden or be the great gardener you were meant to be. To be true to our miraculous abilities and gifts we must truly work in the garden or the gift of our life with priority, intention and discipline.

So I ask again, what matters to you in this New Year? What are your priorities? How do you set intentions within your garden of life so that you can accomplish what was destined for you to accomplish?

I believe that we get lost sometimes in what becomes a priority and what becomes important. Yes, what you set up as your priority becomes important however, what we make important doesn’t necessarily mean it should become or is a priority. Sometimes what we make important or for that matter urgent is really procrastination or avoidance of what we really should be making a priority or our intention or our discipline.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The dictionary defines importance as the quality or state of being important; of value or significance. The dictionary defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done first; superiority in rank, position or privilege; a preferential rating.

The things we make important can carry a heavy feeling of urgency. The things we make a priority can carry a heavy feeling of self-discipline, intention and courage.

According to the website www.differencebetween.net,

“Urgent tasks have an immediate deadline although not necessarily a task that will have a significant impact on your life. Often things become urgent or an urgent situation is created when a person always knows that something had to be accomplished but kept deferring it.”

“Important tasks need not have a deadline looming over the person. The task is important because it has an impact on the person’s life. For example planning your education or career since your days in school is not something that you need to execute right now but will help you chart your life’s direction. Urgency of tasks is based on deadlines. Deciding which task is important is relative to each person’s thoughts and circumstances. Urgency of tasks is decided based on external pressures. Importance of tasks is decided on introspective thinking.”

“There are times when tasks can be urgent and important. For example keeping up with yearly doctor visits and deeper level check-ups can have a significant impact on you and your family. In keeping up with these important yearly tasks of keeping yourself healthy you can avoid the urgent need to see a doctor should something suddenly go awry because you put off your doctor visits and check-ups.”

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

When a person sets his/her priorities it is equivalent to celebrating limits. Limits are helpful in creating priorities because it puts into a neat little package time, people, resources and focus. It prevents overwhelm and helps to achieve goals whether the goals be lifelong or short term. The priorities we choose to label urgent AND important are also a great step toward time management and organization.

To start your New Year off on good footing it might help to create your priority list for each month or each week or each day. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Four Square: I’ve never actually played this game but I love the concept of it for setting priorities. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares. Label the top left square “Important and Urgent”, the top right square “Important but not urgent”, the bottom left square “Not Important but urgent” and the bottom right square “Not Important/Not Urgent”. The top 2 squares are all those tasks that are crises like deadlines, right now work that will yield punishing outcomes if not completed. The top two squares are often reserved for people such as family, volunteering and leadership activities. There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly and falls into square one or two so always be flexible enough to allow for that however square one will be more manageable if you are disciplined enough to always stay on top of what is in that square through time management and intention. The bottom 2 squares are more of the procrastination stuff like chatting, email, meetings, surfing the net, in other words all the things we allow to drag us away from what is really a priority.

The Mountain: Each night, or each new week or each new month before you close out your day sit somewhere quiet and write out all the really significant tasks that need to get done. Maybe your list will have 20 items on it. Only the 3 most significant tasks count here. The biggest, toughest, most challenging mountains to move are the most significant because it will not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. The next day look at your 3 top tasks and start with number one. Work on that number 1 until it is as complete as possible. Then move on to number 2 and so on. Once the top most significant tasks have been completed or started enough that it requires further small steps to complete then you can move on to more of those details within each task.

Getting to know YOU: Do you know when you are at your peak performance during each day? For me I know for sure that my peak concentration and self-discipline times are from 8am until around 1pm. By the time the early afternoon rolls around I am reminded that I haven’t eaten, taken a drink of water or looked up from my tasks and I feel my mind start to fall away. I make sure that my priority list of tasks each day gets done during my peak performance times. I like the feeling and satisfaction of knowing that the tough stuff is behind me early enough in my day that now there is room for miscellaneous things to happen like day dreaming, reading, and checking email.

The Payoff: Any forward movement in fulfilling your priority list of tasks is a reason to take time to celebrate every little achievement. This is up to you how you choose to reward yourself for a job well done. Having someone like a close friend, sibling or life coach in your corner to hold you accountable to your priority lists and celebrate each accomplishment with you is also a tremendous incentive to tackle your to-do’s.

I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to this New Year in how I set my priorities. I decided to set my top priorities as more of a mantra that will help guide me in the everyday tasks that need my grateful care, purposeful intention and willing discipline. I don’t mind sharing it with you:

To love and be loved, to always speak and show gratitude, kindness and integrity.

This mantra for me means saying no if a task doesn’t meet my personal expectations for what I set as my priority that day. In other words knowing my limits and disciplining myself to always strive to be and give my best, staying organized and balanced and always doing what needs to be done with enthusiasm and courage. Don’t misunderstand, I will trip up, I will abandon my disciplines from time to time but my mantra will always be right in front of me cheering me on.

“Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource, and if we want to treat it with respect, we need to set priorities.” Albert-László Barabási, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Call to Action

According to the social security website, www.ssa.gov the average life span of a male today is 84.3 years. If you take 24 hours/day times 365 days a year times 84.3 years that equals 738,468 hours of life. That doesn’t seem like very much time does it?

What are you doing with your hours or as I like calling them, your life minutes?

What are your priorities that lead to action that lead to intention that lead to discipline that lead to integrity that lead to what people will say about you when all is said and done?

Who do you want to be this New Year with intention and discipline and courage?

Image by bing.com


8 Ways to celebrate the unofficial New Year

8 Ways to celebrate the unofficial New Year


“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently, it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.”—Rachel Naomi Remen

I don’t know about you, although I would really like to, but I have always felt that the start of September has been more of a symbolic start to a new year than the one the world has established at the end of December. Maybe a lot of it has to do with the start of a new school year? But think about this, most vacation time ends and schedules kick in with renewed vigor, kids do go back to school starting a new grade level and/or a new school, we tend to buy new clothes for school and work, a new season begins in September, for some people new jobs start in September, in some religions it truly is the start of a new year, new cars are debuted in September, and the new season of football starts in September.

Although September is not the official New Year on the calendar why not make it one for yourself. Think of it like fourth quarter with 30 seconds to go on the 20 yard line and you just know that this time a touchdown is going to happen. Think of it like your last chance at a do over, a chance to right some wrongs before the year officially closes or before your New Year resolutions really do run out, think of it like putting all the leftover ingredients into a stew pot and making the most amazing dinner you have ever made, ever, with brownies for dessert (just in case). That is doing something different with familiar things.

Today I was thinking about the fact that my youngest, my baby boy, will be entering his final year of formal education. Unlike in years past, this momentous event takes place early September this year. Although he feels his final year starts tonight with the official start of football practice I still have yet to buy the all-important notebooks and school supplies and the one first day of school outfit he has become accustomed to, so for me I have some time until the school routine really kicks in. I did however fill out all the medical and contact paperwork that is required each new school year and yes, of course, I cried. Why does time go by so fast? When the universe asked me to be my baby’s’ mom I said, “Yes, of course” but I was never asked if I was ready for him to be a senior in high school.

The thing about doing something familiar but finding new meaning in the familiar is that it changes our perspective on what we seem to take for granted. Even though another school year is about to begin and that in itself is so familiar, this year, besides the fact that it is a new school grade level it is also the last official school year for our family, it means filling out new paperwork so  that my son will get to drive to school for the first time, it means that the football year he has been looking forward to all his life is finally here, it means that he will enter this last school year looking like an underclassman but will walk out of school in June looking like he is ready for college or ready to join the real world, it means that every single day is his last day in the world he has become so familiar with, this year it means a new school principal and it means that he will have to, for the first time really, think about  and plan for his future once he becomes a high school graduate. There are also some firsts that will happen for him that could not have happened at any other time for instance his prom, being honored as a senior on senior football night, winning the pep rally for being the loudest class in the school gym, simple rites of passage that although we all tend to take for granted really should be honored and celebrated. There are so many opportunities each day to take notice of what we think are so mundane and really turn them into something special and meaningful.

So how can you take the familiar things and turn them into something special and unique and meaningful?

1)      Make the days stand out for their own merit. What can help make today meaningful? What would you like to do to make today meaningful? Don’t wait, do it.

2)      Choose simple pleasures like baking a cake for dessert simply because you want to or because you know your family or neighbor will be so happy that you did. A “just because” action makes an ordinary day and you feel special.

3)      Create a picture diary for the day, the month, or the year. If, like for me, this new school year is a milestone, then create a picture diary of every last day of this milestone year.

4)      Create a new habit. Work on changing one thing that you don’t like about your day or yourself and with this “New Year” start to make changes that will better define who you want to be. For some help with creating a new habit go to tinyhabits.com. I have used this website and it really did help me create a new habit.

5)      Add to your to-do list only ONE item that you really want to do that day and make sure you do it, no matter what. For me I enjoy making time for reading romance novels. Even if I only get 30 minutes at the end of my day I make sure it goes on my to-do list so that I don’t neglect what makes me happy.

6)      Listen closer, see deeper, or taste more. Use your senses to create a moment that means more. “Stop and smell the roses” as the saying goes.

7)      Clear the clutter. Clutter accumulates not only on our desks but also in our heads. Clear the clutter by writing it down in a journal or a daily diary, talking about it with a partner, friend or coach, or by putting it in a virtual file for later. Stop paying attention to the worry. The worry is only your energy going toward what you don’t want to happen. Create meaning by concentrating on what you do want to happen.

8)      Use your words. Say “I love you” more today, tell a joke, repeat a joke, remember who you spoke to today, compliment someone, say thank you” more often today, create possibilities, and create beginnings.

I always felt a renewed sense of purpose and energy with each new school year. Now that I work I still find myself looking forward to the change that the new school year brings. There seems to be a more electric charge in the air at this “New Year” time than at the end of December. I can still take advantage of the nicer weather and look forward to wearing sweaters when the cooler weather comes along but knowing that I don’t have to wear a heavy coat yet. I can take pictures of the changing leaves and really take advantage of the visual meaning of appreciating something familiar in a different way, I can enjoy watching my calendar get filled up with my children’s activities and to-do’s and I can relax in the comfort of knowing that I still have some time left to get to work on those long ago New Year resolutions that I have been putting off facing.

So what will you do this “new year”? How will you create meaning in the familiar by doing something different with it? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts with me here.

Remember that we set our own conditions to the events of our days and our lives.

I wish you strength, resolve and a wholehearted Happy New Possibilities Day.

Lisa has been featured in Parent Magazine and in the book Stay-At-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money by Liz Folger.

Coaching is a great vehicle to help navigate through those sticky tough, tumultuous times of parenting, career and life itself. If you would like to see how coaching can supercharge your spirit please call or write to me and let’s chat in a judgment free, empowering, uplifting space. You can reach me at 203-560-3061 or lisa@journeyoncoaching.com. Your personal discovery awaits….

Are you really ready for the new year?

When December 1st hits I feel like every tick of the clock is amplified because with the end of the month comes the end of the year, perhaps the end of a decade or a century. Every day ends, every month ends but the end of December is somehow more significant. Conversely the monumental end of the month of December also brings the enormous beginning of a fresh and hopeful new year, a renewed commitment to old and new goals and old and new resolutions.

Resolutions are in the air. What are resolutions anyway? Promises we try to make to ourselves to do something different or better than ever before. Isn’t that the premise of change?

Whether graduating from school, going off to college, switching career paths, dieting or turning a new age, the word “change” is the main ingredient. For most of us change is very scary and hard to start; goals are hard to set. If we are lucky enough to get started on a change, on obtaining an elusive goal, it is even harder to continue and see it through. For some of us change is exciting, exhilarating. The path toward success with any type of change is our perspective about the change and our attitude throughout the change. The idea of “different” has most of us envious of those who accomplish their changes, meeting their goals and/or running for the hills when thought about in terms of ourselves.

Amy Wrzesniewski, a researcher at Yale University, came up with the term “job crafting” for individuals who completely enjoyed their jobs but they were also making little changes that made their job more enjoyable. In terms of life changes at this time of year I suggest “life crafting”. To put it simply, doing small things, taking baby steps to make your life more rewarding. People can change but at what cost? Change is a shift in identity. We can play with our identities and imagine many possibilities for our lives. Think about someone you know who has made a change, big or small. How did that person seem to behave through the change and as a result of changing? How did you feel in your reaction to that persons change? Now, think about yourself as you are today and in one year from today. If everything about the changes you want to make has gone as well as could be hoped for…

1-      What would the person you hoped to become look like?

2-      What would the changed life feel like?

3-      What is something small that you can do right now to take steps toward that better, resolute, changed life?

Making resolutions, promises to ourselves to change what we don’t like or increase power to what is already working is vital to our well-being. In support for our natural desire to change Robert –Biswas Diener says, “Goals are future-oriented benchmarks that help us organize our behavior. By establishing goals, both large and small, we establish a gauge for success, a guide for making decisions, and a target to move toward. In the absence of goals we tend to flounder.”

According to Jeremy McCarthy of psychologyofwellbeing.com, there are 10 strategies for accomplishing change, goals, and greatness.

1-      Know that change is possible.

2-      Know that change is not easy.

3-      Keep your eye on the prize BUT know that there will be hurdles to overcome.

4-      Don’t focus only on the goal, the change or only on the hurdles. Find a balance of foucs.

5-      Want the changes you seek. For example, “What would make me want to lose weight? “What would make me want to do more exercises? “What would make me want to stick to my goals for change?

6-      What is the smallest, easiest step to take that you know you can’t fail? For example if writing a book is one of your goals, try writing one sentence per day and before you know it you’ll have the makings of your book. It’s a step that there can be no excuses attached to.

7-      Recognize that there will be setbacks and plan for them. For example, IF I want to go to the gym to exercise after work and a colleague asks me to go to happy hour after work THEN I will either meet up with that colleague after my work out or get up early the next morning to go to the gym.

8-      Strengthen your will power. This can be done through meditation or personal challenges to test your resilience.

9-      Dig in and keep going. Persevere. Work hard to achieve your end result.

10-   Know when to let goals go. Sometimes, but rarely, will you realize that the path you are taking toward your change, toward your goal is not the right path. Be flexible enough to recognize that signs of a bad plan and be open enough to change course, change the plan but not give up on the idea of where you want to go.

In this new year that is fast approaching I wish you strength, perseverance and open mindedness toward your changes, your goals and your resolutions. Happy New Year!!!